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a city by city guide to the best indie clubs, bars, record shops and local bands

Bologna, Italy

By Livia Fagnocchi

Walking under Bologna's ancient portici arches one breathes a particular air; the air of an ancient past mixed with fresh, new underground spirits. It’s Bologna: its culturally rich presence is shown in its traditional red walls and in its crowded streets. Walls, in the city centre, are plastered with papers, flyers and posters that liven up day and night life. It can be even hard to find a place to stick your bulletin if you’re looking for a new flatmate. Stuck on those walls and columns under the portici you can find rooms for rent, pets to adopt, old bikes to collect and rebuild, art expositions, gigs, a student association’s protest call and even a girl to date. It’s pretty confusing, you may think and yes, it is, but it’s also so much fun. Bologna gives you tons and tons of things to do, places to visit, art galleries and small interesting venues, but it’s up to you to choose how to experience the city, to find your way. The city is an open-air showcase. A strong indie culture grows up thanks to the ideas and commitment of the 90,000 students of the oldest university in the western world (founded in the year 1088). Almost any alternative, extravagant art project is welcome in an open-minded city like Bologna, which has historically been crossed by many cultures and wars (such as the Romans), subjected to different dominations during the Middle Ages and today populated by more than 600,000 individuals that share a tolerant view. Briefly, it is said Bologna is "the red, the fat, the well-read": Bologna has a left-wing political tradition, and a very prominent food habit - after all, Bologna is the home of tortellini and what foreigners term spaghetti Bolognese (= ragù)! Last but not least, with the important university institution, fine knowledge is kept and produced, bright brains are cultivated.


Clubs


Covo Club

Viale Zagabria, 1 (bus 20).
In what used to be a school is now the Covo Club, the best club in town where to dance indie music with DJs from indie-radios (like Radio Città del Capo) and where to listen to the best bands on tour in wintertime. Have a look at the calendar, as you arrive in Bologna, you may find some unmissable gigs. (www.covoclub.it)

Estragon
Via Stalingrado 83, very close to the highway (uscita tangenziale number 7)

It was a classic club, located in a sort of industrial warehouse. Last year some people bought the field and Estragon had to move out. It is now in a huge tent where thousands of people can go and see big concerts. (www.estragon.it)

Link
It was a classic temple of contemporary artish things in Bologna, a sort of workshop of the newest ideas in the very heart of Bologna, next to XM24. Electronic and hip hop take place at Link, since a year located in the suburbs of Bologna, not easily reachable by bus (better by car).
(www.link.bo.it)

Cassero
Via Don Minzoni 18, 051-6494416 (entrance with Arci card).
It is the house of the gay and lesbian and unbiased culture in town, in the very city centre, in a medieval tower, which was used for storing salt and food. Wednesday night is very popular, with the Absolutely Queer Disco Night.
(www.cassero.it
)


Venues

 

Circolo della Grada
Via della Grada 10

It’s a small club that you can’t see if you don’t know it’s there, behind a 24 hour garage. It hosts different parties and nights. Good concerts were held last winter.
(www.myspace.com/circololagrada)

Villa Serena.
Via della Barca 1, 051/6156789.
A bit outside Bologna (bus 14) there is a villa in a park. Villa Serena is one of the best venues in town, a place where in winter and summer lots of indie-music takes place. “Murato” is the name of the concerts calendar (directed by the label Unhip Records) that is giving us the chance to see brand-new live acts. Have a look at the line-up here at their site, linking on Murato.
(www.unhiprecords.com)

XM 24
Via Fioravanti 24
This is a place where a biological market takes place every Thursday, where very underground bands are welcomed, where every weirdo can find a home. Very much “freakish” and multicultural, very cheap food and drinks. Behind central station, in an old market place.
(www.ecn.org/xm24)

Vicolo Bolognetti
Vicolo Bolognetti 1
It opens only during summertime, when school is closed. Vicolo Bolognetti is the venue inside the backyard of a school, in San Vitale. It is one of the most popular places in summer, with concerts of local good r’n’r bands, open-air cult films, expositions.
(www.myspace.com/bolognetti)


Bars


Zò Caffé

Via Berti 15/b, 051 5883469.
A very cosy place where to seat in a comfortable vintage chair, eat and drink coffee, get some good concerts and paintings.
(www.zocaffe.it)

Sesto Senso.

Via Giuseppe Petroni 9c, 051223476 (tel)

One of the most indie places in Bologna, where all the music-lover-students meet after class for “aperitivo” (a drink before dinner), and listen to the free concerts every Tuesday (during wintertime). There are art-expositions and DJ-sets all week. Open from late morning, good for lunch, better for drink, until 11pm (entrance with Arci card).
(www.sestosenso.bo.it)

Maurizio
Via Guerrazzi 22/a.
Maurizio is the name of a guy, probably in his 60s, who runs the homonymous café, it’s a “standard” even though I can’t explain why. Small café, under an arch, few seats, plastic cups for beers, jazz concerts from time to time and tons of people standing out there talking and meeting after a day of working. Mostly students and artists.

Fram Caffé
Via Rialto 22/c, in front of the Cinema Rialto.
My favourite place where have lunch with delicious veggie cakes, hang out and drink tea. Run by three generations of women (grandma, mum, daughter), Fram Café is unique and you feel at ease and welcomed as soon as you get in. There is a bird cage where to put your dreams of changes (“fram” is the onomatopoeic expression for something falling and changing): they collect dreamers’ papers and it will become an exposition of contemporary real dreams.

Le Stanze
Via Del Borgo Di S. Pietro, 1/A, 051 273602.
It was a chapel: the chapel of the medieval noble family (Bentivoglio) of Bologna. If in the past times there was a choir upstairs, today there is the DJ console. A creative artistic café, open from morning until night (for lunch, dinner, a bit expensive, but it’s worth seeing it).

Caffè della Piazza
Piazza San Francesco 4/c
Go there if you want to be updated with the most popular parties in town. Open at any hour.



Record Shops


Disco d’Oro

Via Galliera, 23, 051260907
Very red and underground, Disco d’Oro is a nice shop where to find music produced by independent labels of any music style. There is a special rich vinyl section for DJs. They sell also second hand CDs. , (www.discodoro.it)

Nannucci
Via Oberdan Guglielmo, 7/C, 051237337.
They have everything you are looking for. From classical to indie-pop, from DVDs to posters. Good place in the city centre.

Scolopendra
Via Del Borgo Di S. Pietro, 45, 051249374.
They sell mainly rock instruments, vinyl, rarities and second hand CDs.


Labels and local Bands

 


Bologna is a very inspiring city for making music. Of course for its long music tradition: since the past decades rock music (especially a strong punk scene) has been brought up by many bands; on the mainstream side, many super-famous songwriters (Lucio Dalla is the greatest) and singers grown up in Bologna. Another reason can be found in the young creative energy that can be gathered in a big university city. Although music industry is not having a good time, in Bologna there are some independent labels that still believe in producing local bands. It’s hard, that’s true, but we continue on supporting (buying CDs and going to concerts) good local bands and labels.

Homesleep Records
This label has both international and national bands, some from Bologna (and from the region).
(www.homesleepmusic.com)

Black Kitten Records
There is a brand new indie-pop project in town called Black Kitten Records, born as a joke after Emmaboda Festival 2006. Their first production just became real (on June 21st 2007): a 7’’ split with the Swedish Detektivbyrån and Hemstad. Good luck!
(www.avisiblesignofmyown.com/blackkitten/home)

Julie’s Haircut
From Modena, count more than 300 concerts since 1999 when their debut album was released, and they are considered one of the best Italian live bands; they were initially influenced by Pavement, Flaming Lips and Pixies, and today the band plays an alternative-space-rock music. They are co-produced by Homesleep Records and Sony BMG.
(www.myspace.com/julieshaircut)

Cut
A very underground dirty r’n’r band, they are a tight and exciting experience on stage. They have 5 albums released since 1997.
(www.myspace.com/cuttheband)

Giardini di Mirò
From Reggio Emilia, are an admired post-rock band with a warped melancholy in the voice and a strong identity; they made 9 albums within 10 years of activity, 7 with Homesleep.
(www.myspace.com/giardinidimiro)

Settlefish
Are a very immediate post-rock band lead by Johnatan Clancy (a Canadian who moved in Bologna). They were signed up in Italy for the Bologna-based label Unhip Records (see also Villa Serena above), and for Deep Elm Records (Washington) for Uk and US market.
(www.myspace.com/settlefish)

Mersenne
Bologna-based power trio signed for Urtovox Records, from Firenze.
(www.myspace.com/mersennemusic)

My Awesome Mixtape
These “Bologna Geek Dancers” will see their first album released by My Honey Records next September.
(www.myspace.com/wearemyawesomemixtape)

Jennifer Gentle
Just a couple of lines for my favourite Italian band: Jennifer Gentle (born in Padova, now based in north-east Italy). This is a band who has been fed at 60s psychedelic music, a band who can make it contemporary and pop/melodic without sacrificing improvisation, a wonderful guitar touch, a crazy attitude. Syd Barret nods, up there.
(www.myspace.com/jennifergentle)


Miscellaneous


Stefino

Galliera 49/b
Ice cream by Stefino. Biological eggs and milk for one of the best ice-cream place in town.
(www.stefino.com)

Piazza Aldrovandi
The “vecchi” (old) of Piazza Aldrovandi: it’s a café usually popular among old people (where they play cards and hang out), now always crowded of young students that go there after classes (for aperitivo) because it’s very very cheap.


Bologna Estate
The cultural manifestation that take place every summer, from June to September, with great concerts (in different venues), guided visits, shows, conferences, book presentations and any culture promotion activity. Very rich calendar.
(www.comune.bologna.it/cultura/)

Mambo
Via Don Minzoni 14, +39 051 6496611.
The very new Modern Art Museum (opened May 2007) in the new location in the city centre. (www.mambo-bologna.org)

Homemade and take-away tortellini by the ladies in Via del Pratello.

Thanks to Lavinia Springett, Marta Fioni and Greta Travagliati

If you'd like to recommend a club, bar, record shop, band or any indie delight for inclusion in the Indie Travel Guide, please email us. If we've included a link to your band/shop etc, it would be lovely if you could link back to us. Thank you!

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